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Using treats is a great motivator for productivity and creating new habits.

In Better Than Before, author Gretchen Rubin talks about how you can use treats to reward yourself based on your personality type. Even if your personality doesn’t require regular treats, using rewards can be a fun way to build habits or even connect with friends or family.

However, if you’re on a tight budget, spending money on treats may seem frivolous, not to mention impossible.

If you’ve been struggling to create new habits, be more productive, or even just reward yourself occasionally as part of your self-care routine, treats are an excellent idea. But how do you afford them in a tight budget?

How to Create a Treat Allowance

Analyze your priorities

Maybe you cut Starbucks from your budget because all the financial experts said, “Don’t spend $3 on a cup of coffee when you can make it at home.” Or, maybe you canceled your gym membership because someone convinced you to try running (which you still hate) instead of going to your favorite Pilates class.

When you create your budget, think about your priorities. Paying your rent/mortgage, utilities, and buying food should always come first, but don’t forget to include items that are important to you.

If exercise is important to you, find a way to fit it into your budget. You may need to cut back on dining out, but remember that this is your budget. Your budget should reflect your priorities.

Create wiggle room in your budget

Once you’ve determined your priorities and ensured that your budget covers the necessities, take a hard look at your budget. Is there anything that doesn’t belong? Is there anything that isn’t necessary or doesn’t match your priorities? Is there anything that you could reduce?

In addition to reducing or removing some expenses, you could also create temporary buckets. For example, maybe this month is your tenth wedding anniversary and you want to celebrate, so your dining out budget may be higher than usual. Could you possibly spend less on clothes or entertainment to compensate? Even doing this on a small-scale will help you create funds for treats.

It’s important to create a “zero sum budget,” where every cent is accounted for. But instead of creating super specific categories, like gym, fast food, dining out, movies, etc., try creating an “entertainment” category.

With a larger category, you won’t feel guilty using the money for your treats. Just make sure that your necessities, like groceries, utilities, and housing are paid first, and then feel free to spend your entertainment money how you want.

Realize that treats don’t have to be expensive

The point of treating yourself isn’t to stress out over money. A treat should be something small to reward or encourage yourself for your accomplishments.

Find free activities

Your local library is a great resource to find free activities. Not only will you library have free books and movies available for potential treats, but it may also have insider information on free community events, like plays, local artists’ performances, and more.

Cost-share with a friend

If your treat is something that could be shared, consider asking a friend to split it with you. If that’s not an option, maybe you and your friend could trade something.

Borrowing or renting an item is also a great option, especially if your treat isn’t something that you want to have permanently.

Sign up for a discount

If getting a massage after your first race sounds like the perfect reward, sign up for your local spa’s email newsletter. You’ll often receive coupons, and your spa may even send out discounts for “last minute bookings” in order to fill their appointments for the day.

If there aren’t any advertised promotions, call before booking your appointment. It never hurts to ask if the company offers discounts or is running a promotion!

Check Groupon for discounts to local events, restaurants, and stores. You can even use Groupon as inspiration for treats to motivate you to reach your goals. 😉

If you do use Groupon (or any online store) to purchase your treat, remember to sign in to Ebates first to save even more money.

Use alternative treats

Maybe you’d love to reward yourself with regular manicures every time you reach your weekly goal, but it’s just not in the budget. For the price of one manicure, invest in high-quality nail polish that you can use again and again for a DIY manicure.

This also works for coffee – one of my favorite treats. 😉 Instead of “treating yourself” on the way to work by stopping at a coffee shop, buy some great flavored coffee and make it at home.

Add it to your wish list

Ask for your favorite treat for your birthday or an upcoming holiday. You can even create a wish list in Amazon and then save up gift cards from Swagbucks to purchase your treat. Once you’ve earned enough from Swagbucks, buy your treat guilt-free.

By making sure that your treats match your budgeting priorities, finding wiggle room in your budget, and finding ways to make treats more affordable, you can be on your way to reaching your goals!